This election season, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ted Cruz and Les Misérables.
In case you didn’t know, Cruz is a big fan of the musical, which is set during the 1832 Paris uprising.
My introduction to the story and music of Les Mis came courtesy of the 2012 film, and even then, as Barack Obama was beginning his second term in office, I was struck by how timely was Les Mis’ exploration of social injustice and economic inequality.
From beginning to end, poverty and injustice are principal characters of the plot. Jean Valjean and Fantine cannot escape the marks poverty has left on them, and those scars pass down to the next generation, which fights, loves and dies in an effort to overthrow a system that perpetuates the injustices inflicted on their parents.
“At the end of the day,” the ensemble cast sings early in the musical, “you’re another day older, and that’s all you can say for the life of the poor. It’s a struggle, it’s a war, and there’s nothing that anyone’s giving. … One day less to be living.”
The callous indifference of the power elites to the suffering of the underclass is clearly unsustainable.
“Like the waves crash on the sand,” the song continues, “like a storm that’ll break any second, there’s a hunger in the land. There’s a reckoning to be reckoned, and there’s gonna be hell to pay at the end of the day!”
Entwined around these themes of injustice, oppression and poverty is the question of God. Does God care, do God’s followers care, is Christianity something that effects change or sedates the masses?
“Here in the slums of Saint Michele,” the orphan Gavroche sings, “we live on crumbs of humble piety.”